After two years of searching for the perfect spot to build a specialized baseball field in Miami-Dade to serve the county’s more than 30,000 physically and developmentally disabled children, the Howard Palmetto Miracle League of Miami-Dade has found a home at Tamiami Park and the money to make it a reality.
At Marlins Park on Saturday night, April 14, prior to the start of the Marlins-Astros game, Miami Marlins President David Samson, Marlins Foundation executive director Alfredo Mesa, pitcher Heath Bell and catcher John Buck presented a $100,000 check to Miracle League co-chairs, Keith Reilly and Karl Sturge, and fundraising co-chairs Lisa Mays and Sandy Robinson. The endowment will help the organization begin construction on its new home at Tamiami Park.
“For 50 years the Howard Palmetto Baseball Softball League has served many of the boys and girls of our communities, but special needs children are not being served,” said Miracle League co-chair Karl Sturge. “Now we can close the bridge and serve all the needs of the county and these kids can be just like every other child.”
Earlier, at the 2012 inaugural meeting of the Miami-Dade Miracle League in Pinecrest, foundation director Mesa announced the gift.
“I’m here to share with you that you have the Marlins Foundation’s commitment, our president David Samson and our entire board, to help make this dream a reality,” said Mesa.
At the same time, Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation director Jack Kardys pinpointed the location of the specialized field and playground complex.
“It is so rare that you find an organization (like the Miracle League of Miami-Dade) that shares our commitment to providing services to the disabled in our community like we do,” said Kardys. “A year-and-a-half ago, Keith and Karl presented this beautiful idea and video that hit me right in the heart and brought tears to my eyes, and I thought to myself, yes, this is something that we can do.”
Kardys went on to relate the unique challenges encountered in finding just the right field to suit the needs of the project.
“We finally settled on Tamiami Park because, as many of you know, it is the center of the universe for competitive baseball,” he said. “The configuration is going to be on the west side of the park where we have the capacity to handle the needs of the disabled.”
Keith Reilly, former president of the Howard Palmetto Baseball Softball Association and current co-chair of the Miracle League of Miami Dade, said the Tamiami Park location was perfect.
“We looked all over the county for the ideal location for the baseball field,” he said. “It had to be centrally located in the county, near a major highway, with hotels and a medical facility close by.”
During his presentation, Reilly noted that the Tamiami Park field is situated precisely in the middle of the county.
“We are thrilled to be a partner with the Miami Marlins in this truly worthwhile project,” said co-chair Sturge. “This spring the Marlins opened their stadium to great fanfare and they have been tremendously supportive to our endeavor and, equally important, to special needs children. With the partnership of the Marlins and Miami-Dade County Parks, we are in the initial phase of fundraising and our goal is to finish the field in spring 2013. But we will have Miracle League games running before then on existing baseball fields across the county. Any special needs families interested in participating should contact us.”
The first Miracle League began in Atlanta in 2000. Today there are 255 Miracle League organizations around the world serving more than 250,000 children and young adults with disabilities.
For more information, go to www.miracleleagueofmiamidade.org or call 786-224-4800.